28 August 2013

Water and the Future of Humanity

A new book released this week, Water and the Future of Humanity, provides a much-needed comprehensive view on how people access and use water, food, energy, and other goods and services, and what changes are needed in this complex system.

Recent years have seen increasing cooperation among those working in water-related sectors as they address the common problems arising from allocating and use of  water, from all sources, to meet the increasing needs of humans and maintaining ecosystem health against a background of accelerating change in climate and other external forces. The results of the benefits of such cooperation will be described by a number of well-known water professionals at World Water Week in Stockholm on September 1.  

Recent United Nations World Water Development Reports focused on the critical role of cooperation among decision-makers in water resource management at different levels in the public and private economic and social sectors. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2010 commissioned a Think Tank on Water and the Future of Humanity. The Foundation sponsored a book containing the reflections of the eleven well-known personalities in the field of water management who were members of the Think Tank, now released by Springer. The food, water, energy and environment nexus has been the subject of several conferences, notably in Bonn in 2011 and most recently one sponsored by the Global Water Systems Project. UNESCO recognised the need for examination of the drivers of change and possible scenarios of the role of water in these futures as an aid to decision-makers and published their findings at the 6th World Water Forum. They then joined forces with the International Institute for Systems Analysis (IIASA) to continue this work in an effort also supported by the International Water Association, the World Water Council and the Government of Korea. The Secretariat for this integrated systems analysis initiative is located at IIASA (Water Futures and Solutions Initiative: World Water Scenarios - WFaS); it involves dozens of modellers and other experts from partner institutions.  

During the seminar at World Water Week on September 1, representatives of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Think Tank will describe the justification for and findings of their exercise (watch live stream). Representatives of the Global Water Systems Project will describe the role of cooperation at the water, food, energy, and environment nexus. Partners in the WFaS Initiative will present their approach to combining the factors described to identify a set of adaptable, resilient and robust solutions. A facilitated panel will discuss with participants how cooperation facilitates and enriches the ongoing processes.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Springer will take advantage of this event to launch their book Water and the Future of Humanity. This book brings together an unparalleled slate of experts from the disciplines of engineering, natural and social sciences, addressing one of the most critical issues facing humans today and in the coming decades. The team examined the major development challenges but also the opportunities facing future generations.  Linkages among socioeconomic and other drivers, the environment, energy and food and their relations to water and other natural resources are scrutinized. In this authoritative and readable text they describe the changes needed in the way water, food, energy and other goods and services are provided, accessed and used. Unfortunately, access is limited for the poor. Similarly unfortunate, misuse of water and the goods and services produced is common. Projections and recommendations in the book are quantified through the use of simulation models. Believing that we can use our visionary abilities, technologies, and economic resources for increased human wellbeing and the sound stewardship of our resources, the authors present an optimistic outlook for the future. They discuss the actions that scientists, policy makers, and consumers can and must take to meet the water management challenges of a warming planet approaching nine billion inhabitants.

The authors of the book are:

Benedito Braga, Professor of Civil Engineering, University of São Paulo, Brazil; Colin Chartres, Director General of the International Water Management Institute, Australia; William J. Cosgrove, President of Ecoconsult Inc. & Senior Adviser for the UN World Water Development Report, Canada; Luis Veiga da Cunha, Professor Environmental Science & Engineering, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal; Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute, USA; Pavel Kabat, Director, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria, and Professor & Chair, Earth Systems Science, Wageningen University, The Netherlands; Mohamed Ait Kadi, President of the General Council of Agricultural Development, Morocco; Daniel P. Loucks, Professor of Civil Engineering, Cornell University, USA; Jan Lundqvist, Senior Scientific Advisor, Stockholm International Water Institute, Sweden; Sunita Narain, Director, Center for Science & Environment, New Delhi, India; and Jun Xia, President, International Water Resources Association, Chair Professor & Dean, The Research Institute for Water Security (RIWS), Wuhan University, China.

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Last edited: 18 June 2014


Bill Cosgrove

Guest Senior Research Scholar Water Security Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program


Water and the Future of Humanity enlightens readers on changes needed in the way water, food, energy and other goods and services are provided, accessed, and used.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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